Mauled by the crowd at the Den

 

It was my first visit to the district of South Bermondsey, the home of Millwall FC since 1993. I had expected to meet a partisan crowd keen to cheer their team to victory in a relegation dogfight. But following Latics’ draw at Fulham I was optimistic that they could do even better against a side with much less quality than the Cottagers. Gary Caldwell would have his team play neat and compact in the first half, frustrating the home crowd, stifling their passionate support.

In fact the home crowd was to voice its frustration on several occasions in the first 15 minutes as their team could not string their passes together. Millwall looked a poor side, ready for the taking. But Latics were playing cautiously with Marc-Antoine Fortune a solitary figure up front. Nevertheless their possession football was frustrating both the Millwall team and their supporters.

However, the home crowd was to rouse their team into knocking Latics off their game. For once we had bought tickets in the central stand near the half way line. I had hoped that not only would we get a good view of the game, but be surrounded by some of the more moderate home supporters.

My illusions were soon shattered. As Kim Bo Kyung ran with the ball the crowd around me chanted racist words at him, akin to the politically incorrect term that Dave Whelan had used when referring to  Asian restaurants he used to visit as a kid. One fan behind me shouted “stop him”, another took it a stage further with his rallying call of “flatten him”.

Millwall responded to the crowd’s promptings with a series of professional fouls, in an effort to knock Latics off their game. However, Latics stayed relatively calm, retaining possession. Neither side was to produce much goal threat in the first half. Scott Carson had saved Latics after Gaetan Bong ‘s error put them in trouble. The much maligned Fortune should have opened the scoring for Wigan after 27 minutes from a lovely Bong cross but his tame header made it easy for Forde to turn the ball over the bar. It clearly was not much fun for Fortune playing that role as the lone striker, but his lack of running off the ball and inability to stay on side hampered promising moves developing.

Going in at half time with the scores level was a solid base to build upon. Up to that point the referee had resisted much of the baying of the crowd. The atmosphere had almost resembled that of a bull fight rather than a football match. Spectators who had previously looked contemplative would suddenly stand up and shout expletives at the referee and the Latics players. One wondered how long the referee could resist their demands.

But if Latics could continue to frustrate Millwall and their hostile crowd and pose more of an attacking threat, it looked like they could go on and win the match. One wondered if Caldwell would put in Martyn Waghorn for Fortune immediately after the interval in an effort to win the game.

The crowd continued to be loud and vocal, aiming their abuse at the “northerners “, but James McClean in particular. Caldwell was to wait a further 8 minutes before making the obvious change to the applause of the away contingent. Sadly with the crowd baying for blood Waghorn was to stay on the pitch for only 9 minutes, being given a red card after supposedly retaliating following a scuffle. His departure seemed to have provided the death knell for Wigan’s chances, but they could have got on top soon after when a neat move saw Kim pass the ball to Bong who blasted the ball over the top from eight yards.

The referee continued to be swayed by the crowd, allowing the home team to continue their professional fouling. Millwall were to take the lead after 74 minutes when Abdou ran to head in a left wing cross from Harding. Six minutes later the referee made a ludicrous decision in sending off Jason Pearce after he had taken the ball in what looked like a hard, but fair, tackle. He evened things up by sending off Millwall’s Upson with Pearce.

Nine man Wigan continued to attack, but looked vulnerable with only two at the back. Substitute Gueye capitalized on the lack of defensive cover by running through and beating Carson with an angled shot in the last minute.

In the end the partisan home crowd had won the day. They had lifted their mediocre team to a crucial victory that gives them hope of avoiding relegation. However, three of their final four games remaining are away from home. Their home game is against Derby County.

Wigan had by no means played badly. The defenders had clearly been working on their distribution and it was a rare sight to see Carson resist so many chances to hoof the ball upfield. Instead he looked for a teammate nearby with a throw. Rarely can one remember a Wigan Athletic goalkeeper so reluctant to use the throw as a means of launching attacks. He looked almost peeved to have to the throw the ball in this match.

It was pleasing to see Tim Chow being brought on for the final 10 minutes. The young player should really have been in contention for a place back in August, after a fine close season. Caldwell has done what Rosler feared to do in blooding the St Helens-based player.

With just three games remaining, Caldwell will have the opportunity to blood more young players, who will become senior squad members next season as the club downsizes its wage bill.

Summer is likely to see another fire sale as Latics will almost certainly head down a division. The likes of ex-Premier League players such as Carson, McClean and Perch will be sold off to the highest bidder. None of the players currently on loan or short term contracts are likely to be offered renewals, given either their potential salary demands or their performances up to this point. Old favourites like Al-Habsi and Boyce will surely be on their way.

Once again it will be a time of change for Wigan Athletic.

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10 responses

    • Hi Jeff,

      The characters sat close to me making racist taunts at Kim and shouting “flatten him” were by no means funny. Neither were the eventful decisions of a referee pressurised by the crowd.

      Regards,

      JJ

  1. Ridiculous biassed report, you should be ashamed, this nonsense serves nobody. But then again, you are entitled to spout any rubbish you want on line. Wigan are the worst team to have come to the Den this season. All three sending-offs were totally deserved.

  2. I saw the Jason Pearce sending off and that certainly did not look like a sending off to me, so how you fans (I’m assuming you’re Millwall fans) can say that was a sending off I have no idea. He may have come in hard, but the ball went flying off before the man even began to fall. The other two certainly were, as there is no place for that kind of behaviour from Waghorn or the other lad on the pitch. On the bright side, it was great to see the manager given a chance to one of our Academy lads for a change. Unfortunately the irony is I don’t think we’ve offered Tim Chow a new contract, which is a real shame. Once again not taking our chances hurt us, and Fortune was again guilty of missing an easy chance. I was hoping for our gaffer to finally start with Waggy, but it looks as if that won’t be happening. At least give Sam Cosgrove or Louis Robles a chance, now we’ve really got nothing to lose.

  3. The referee needed to send Waghorn off for lashing out, but the only reason he lashed out was the Millwall player rushing in and kicking him while he was on the ground! He should have been off too. That was the decisive moment in the match.

    And Pearce’s was ridiculous – hardly a yellow card and a direct result of the crowd and players’ reactions to a strong but fair challenge in which he won the ball.

    The point is the crowd strongly influenced the referee’s decision making. A lot of anger in that stadium!! Quite hard to see them staying up with three of their four matches left away from home.

    Re: Latics, lacked the finishing they have all season but still pleasing to watch them use the ball on the ground. A couple lovely flowing moves, with Kim at the center of it. Hope Caldwell can win a match or two before the end of the season to start building confidence, although there will be so much turnover this summer that it’s going to take another season just to build and stabilize a squad. Fresh start…

  4. How can you conclude that Millwall are a mediocre team and Wigan aren’t. Plus every sending off, including Upson’s was justified. As for the aggression in the crowd, I don’t think that it affected the referees decisions. They should be professional enough to be able to deal with that and expect it when overseeing matches at The Den, as a championship referee. And it seems you are forgetting how Wigan players hounded the referee every time he blew the whistle. What chance are you giving yourselves by annoying the ref?

    • Not sure he was suggesting Wigan weren’t mediocre. We’ve obviously been crap all season. But I think he was suggesting Latics were at least trying to play some decent, passing football instead of constant fouling and picking fights, egged on by their manager and supporters!

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